BERLIN: Germany is sticking to its long-held plan of shutting down the country's three remaining nuclear power plants this year but keeping the option of reactivating two of them in case of an energy shortage in the coming months, officials said on Monday.
The announcement follows the publication of a much-anticipated stress test that examined how Germany's power grid will cope with a possible electricity squeeze due to the energy crisis Europe is facing.
Like other European countries, Germany is scrambling to ensure the lights stay on and homes stay warm this winter despite the reduction in natural gas flows from Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
The government has already announced numerous measures to import gas from other sources and reactivate mothballed coal- and oil-fueled power plants, while urging citizens to conserve as much energy as possible.
But there were concerns that Germany's power grid could be heavily strained if consumers switch to electric heaters in the winter and strong demand from neighboring countries means energy exports rise.
Germany's opposition parties have called for the country's nuclear plants to be kept online, with some lawmakers even suggesting shuttered ones be reopened and new reactors built.
Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck, a member of the environmentalist Greens party that has long been opposed to nuclear power, said the combination of several factors - problems with France's nuclear power plants, drought hampering hydropower generation in the Alps and Norway, and problems shipping coal across Europe due to low water levels - could strain the grid this winter.
"Because of all these risks, we can't rely securely there being enough power plants available to stabilize the electricity network in the short term if there are grid shortages in our neighboring countries," he said.
Habeck said that two reactors - Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim north of Stuttgart - will be kept on standby until mid-April next year. A third plant, Emsland near the Dutch border, will be powered down as planned in December.
No new fuel rods will be purchased for the two plants, he said.
"One shouldn't play with nuclear power," Habeck said. "A blanket extension of the operating life can't be justified in view of the safety conditions t the nuclear plants."